“Like Galsang flowers”, Chinese President Xi Jinping said about the sisters Zhoigar and Yangzom, children of one of the nine families of Tibetan herders who make up the village of Yümai. For two generations, Xi wrote, the families had put down roots in the brutal mountains along China’s border with Arunachal Pradesh, becoming “guardians of Chinese territory”. Now, he urged, others should also march into the mountains, and make their nation blossom from the frozen soil.
Few in India noticed Xi’s letter, made public a week after the nineteenth session of the Communist Party of China—a critical meeting that came just months after the Doklam crisis. New Delhi should have been listening harder: as the crisis along the Line of Actual Control in Ladakh unfolds, the letter is turning out to have been a declaration of strategic intent.
Even as New Delhi remains cautiously optimistic that negotiations to end the savage winter impasse in Ladakh will lead, at least, to a disengagement of troops in stand-off positions around Pangong Lake, there’s mounting concern that the spring and summer could bring new horrors.
The gargantuan scale of Chinese infrastructure development along its 4,056-kilometre border with India—all but a small part in dispute—hangs over efforts to negotiate an end to the crisis on the LAC. Earlier this month, for example, Xi issued instructions to ramp up ongoing work on the 1,838-km high-speed train service between Lhasa and Chengdu, passing through Nyingchi, across the border from Sikkim.Read more…